Stop, Drop And Post: How Social Media Supports Emergency Preparedness Plans For Investor Relations
In the world of school drills, I grew up in an oasis of innocence — after duck-and-cover nuclear threats and before school shooting reality. Gen Xers only had to contend with the occasional fire drill. Every few months, an alarm would clang through the halls, and the principal’s voice would come over the loudspeaker: “This is only a drill.” We’d go through the motions, following the teacher's orders. Line up here… exit there… don’t panic. In my case, it was nothing more than a break from school day doldrums. However, if an actual emergency had occurred, thankfully we would’ve been prepared.
Working in a virtual office space, fire drills are no longer a part of my regular life. Crisis communications, on the other hand, has landed center stage. Planning for crises is a crucial step for any business. And yet, company leaders frequently neglect to invest in the right precautions. Our firm provides tools to aid individuals and corporations in proxy fights or with activist investors. We’re often contacted in the nick of time, asked to save a sinking ship. We thrive on adrenaline, creating websites in a day and corporate videos in a few hours. The rush of last-minute deliveries is our stock-in-trade.
One lesson we’ve learned through years of corporate crises: A pre-planned, well-cultivated social media emergency plan can save the day. The key is that these cannot be created overnight. If you haven’t been developing such channels all along, then you haven’t been running the right fire drills.
Investor Relations (IR) communications within corporations has traditionally been managed through a series of well-worn channels — press releases, company websites, earnings calls, investor meetings, and roadshows. While they continue to serve a purpose in general communications, they’re ill-suited for emergencies. Sending out a press release and praying it gets picked up, or creating a website on the fly, is like building an escape door with no exit sign.
A robust, IR-specific social media presence should be an integral part of emergency preparedness for every investor relations team, and it also provides the opportunity to directly connect with institutional and retail investors on an ongoing basis. Don’t wait until you need to reach investors in a defensive move — start now, and your strategic crisis communication will calmly, effectively lead the way to safety.
Social media is cost-efficient and easily accessible, though you have to know where to find your audience. While there’s no need to be everywhere (you won’t find many IRO viral videos on TikTok), Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube should be included in any investor relation team’s strategy.
Establish a handle on each of the platforms and you’ll invariably find an audience waiting in the wings — individuals and organizations with an invested interest in what you have to say. All you have to do is show you are listening — or even join the conversation.
The goal is to not only grow an audience but to create trust with those followers, so that when the time comes to send a critical message, they’re open to what you have to say. Authenticity is the currency of choice. People expect more than numbers, graphs and deal announcements — they want relatable humans behind each message. Being bland and institutional quickly burns credibility and turns off your audience.
Creating relevant, relatable content for an IR feed can be challenging, but we encourage you to show off your corporate personality. Here are some initial ideas we often suggest:
Press Release Teasers: Post a link to your press release on your social channels with a very short summary.
Quarterly Calls/Investor Day Ramp-Up, Ramp-Down: Let your audiences know about your standard communications, similar to letting your friends know when the cocktail party is scheduled. Then post the Top 5 takeaways that you already disclosed as the tailwind after the party is over.
Employee Spotlight: Show appreciation for associates and team members through a spotlight series. Many of your investors may already know your C-suite superstars, but highlighting a range of employees signals pride and trust in your team, while humanizing the company as a whole.
Take a Stance: Social media is the perfect place to signal things the company believes in, whether directly relevant to the business or not. For example, how a company puts their ESG (environmental, social and governance) philosophy into practice is becoming more important to both retail and institutional investors alike.
For IR managers, one of the most important functions to master is use of the cashtag (your stock ticker symbol prefixed with a dollar sign). Much like their more common cousin, hashtag, cashtags are a mechanism to denote a financial theme. For example, to search for tweets about Apple or Google stock, you would use $AAPL or $GOOG. You can search any cashtag to see what conversation is happening around that ticker symbol. Monitoring the activity around your cashtag can be the canary-in-the-coal-mine warning that saves a company.
Perhaps the most valuable social tool is the ability to micro-target your messaging to a specific audience. In contrast to press releases, most social platforms allow you to filter your audience by interests, geography, age, and profession. Imagine the benefits of being able to tailor messages to those who are most willing to hear them.
The effectiveness of your targeting depends on a variety of factors — most notably, what you’re willing to invest in a paid content strategy.
Break Glass in Case of Emergency
Imagine you wake up one morning to find yourself challenged by an activist investor. What is your first line of defense when it comes to communication — a press release that may or may not get picked up? A website? An email list? If you have diligently built an audience on your socials, you can be guaranteed that one targeted tweet or compelling video explainer will reach, engage, impact and influence more people than almost any other outlet. Crisis averted, you’re free to return to your grown-up classroom, crack open that pre-laptop textbook and get back to work.
Founder and CEO at Haystack Needle